Veteran reservists refresh knowledge during base tour

Veteran reservists conduct tours of HMCS Winnipeg and Calgary at the beginning of May. The groups were part of approximately 107 veterans participating in this year's University Naval Training Division Association Conference. Photo supplied

Veteran reservists conduct tours of HMCS Winnipeg and Calgary at the beginning of May. The groups were part of approximately 107 veterans participating in this year’s University Naval Training Division Association Conference. Photo supplied.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer — A group that gathered on HMCS Winnipeg’s flight deck on the morning of May 10 eagerly discussed the embarked CH 148 Cyclone Helicopter.

From afar, the gathering seemed like another guided tour of the Halifax-class frigate, yet, Sub-Lieutenant (SLt) Benjamin Miller, Winnipeg’s Naval Warfare Officer, said it was nuanced.

“Because the visitors are former Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) members, their level of experience is a little bit higher, and the questions are more interesting,” SLt Miller said. “Rather than asking, ‘what is this?’ or ‘what does it do?’, the questions were more advanced, such as, ‘what is the range of this weapon’s system?’ and ‘what can we count on it to do?’.”

The group consisted of approximately 50 veteran reservists who attended this year’s annual University Naval Training Division (UNTDA) Association Conference, May 9 to 12. Meanwhile, another almost 50 veterans toured HMCS Calgary.

During the tour, Winnipeg was undergoing its work period in the Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton Dry Dock. Still, the maintenance disruptions did not prevent the ship’s company from proudly showing it off to their visitors.

The group discussed emergency response, duty watch, enhanced Sea Sparrow and Harpoon Missile systems, Refueling at Sea (RAS) capabilities, the main guns, torpedoes and sensor systems, and today’s navigation and command structure at sea. They also visited the ship’s wardroom, sickbay, officer’s cabins and the small arms locker.

Commander (Cdr) (ret’d) David Ashley said he was awestruck at the pace the Navy has changed since his days as a sailor.

“It’s really nice to come back to see a modern warship and understand the remarkable technical changes that have occurred,” said Ashley.

Ashley served 20 years in Canada’s Naval Reserve, commanding HMCS York. The most significant change he noted was the giant control board in the ship’s hangar, which displays everything happening in the ship, from a fire to who was in a room and how long they had been there.

Cdr (ret’d) Gerry Powell, another Winnipeg visitor, said memories of his days as a young RCN recruit flooded him during the tour.

“Walking down into Dockyard, I am looking at all the young sailors working so hard and realizing that was me 40 years ago,” Powell said. He rose through the ranks to command Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental Test Ranges (CFMETR) in Nanoose Bay.

The visitors also toured HMCS Venture, 443 Mari-time Helicopter Squadron, Damage Control Training Facility Galiano and Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific).

Commodore (ret’d) Dave Craig, UNTDA Conference Organizing Committee member and a former COMNAVRES, served 41 years in the RCN and extended his thanks to the base Visits and Protocol office on behalf of the group for organizing the tour, which, he said, was nearly two years in the making.

“The tour was excellent and was all thanks to the high level of knowledge and enthusiasm of the naval personnel providing information,” Craig said. “Their attention to detail allowed the event to occur as smoothly as we could possibly hope for.”

With files from LCdr (ret’d) Paul Seguna.

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